The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Congregation prays for boy's return

NOTE: Christopher Samples was located in Ohio in September and has been reunited with his mother. Read story.

After her son disappeared, Jennifer Samples couldn't sleep. She didn't want to stop praying for Christopher. Her congregation, Immanuel Lutheran, Pepin, Wis., has responded by keeping vigil since the 3-year-old's June 2 disappearance.

"I don't think any of us imagined what God was calling us to when we promised to partner with and support Christopher [on his baptism day]," says Karna Baseman-Stark, Immanuel's pastor. "We need him back desperately to be who we are as a community. We're creating a net of connections hoping each stitch will help us get Christopher back."

Authorities are searching for Jennifer's estranged husband, Mark, who didn't return Christopher after a weekend visit. Mark Samples, 39, was free on bond while facing federal bank robbery charges. He is likely in eastern Ohio or West Virginia. He is a Gulf War veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome, is an Internet enthusiast and has worked in clinics drawing blood. He weighs 225 pounds and has hazel eyes and short brown hair.

Christopher, a brown-haired, blue-eyed boy with a scar on his left cheek, sometimes goes by "Chrissy" or "Thomas."

If you have information, contact the FBI's Rochester, Minn., office (507-282-7322) or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (877-446-2632). See www.cannon.net/~christopher for more information.


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Embracing diversity